‘I Spent Years Destroying My Skin Barrier With Harsh Products, but Finally Found a Routine That Keeps It Healthy and Irritation-Free’
For Isla Beauty founder Tracy Dubb, acne was a gateway into a whole host of other skin-care problems. After aggressively treating her teenaged breakouts with Accutane and Retin-A (two prescription-grade medications), it wasn't long until her ravaged skin barrier was sensitized to the point of discomfort.
"In my mid-to-late 20s, when my skin started to change and my acne was maybe more predictable and controllable, I had terrible rosacea and all sorts of dermatitis, and that was a real turning point for me," Dubb says in the latest episode of Routine Rundown, Well+Good's new beauty Podcast. "I realized that everything I'd been doing to my skin—from [using] really harsh chemical exfoliants to getting chemical peels all the time to doing microdermabrasion as frequently as I could—was contributing to this. And I started to wonder how I could dial it all back, and I got really into skin barrier health and repair, and that's really informed my philosophy."
Listen to the conversation here:
Dubb, who spent years working with up-and-coming beauty brands in her role as a venture capitalist, decided to bottle up this philosophy into a brand of her own. And thus, in 2020, Isla Beauty was born. The line—which currently consists of five products—is dedicated to nourishing the skin barrier with transparent formulas made from ingredients sourced all over the world.
"There's so much noise, and frankly, disappointing product out there, and I think people are sick of it. So my philosophy was really, 'let's cut the bullshit,'" says Dubb. "I really wanted to cut to the chase of what made good skin care, and then figure out how to bring it to people at better prices and with more transparency."
She continues, "I think it's more important than ever to, to cut down on the bullshit, because I think society, as it relates to beauty, is sort of at a tipping point where it's gotten unhealthy," pointing to TikTok trends that push people to try every viral product, regardless of whether or not it's right for their skin." And I think it's kind of getting away from the point of it all. Because with over-the-counter stuff, you can really change your skin to an extent. My skin was awful my whole life, and then I discovered that skin barrier nourishment is a really key thing for any sort of skin type, but especially a challenged one, and that's the philosophy Isla's products are built around."
With three years as a skin-care founder (and the knowledge that comes along with it) under her belt, Dubb has come a long way from wreaking havoc on her skin barrier with her daily routine. Below, you can shop the products she swears by for keeping it healthy (many of which—yes—come from Isla's line, and all of which are beloved by our editors), then listen to the rest of our conversation about transparent beauty (and why its high time it takes the place of clean) and what makes skin-care "good" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your Podcasts.
“I don’t always wash my face in the morning, which was a revelation for me because I’ve been a twice-a-day face washer since I started to get acne in my teens, but I realized when I went to bed with a clean face and didn’t sweat at night sometimes just a toner or a quick wash with water worked, and this is sort of keeping with being a bit gentler with your skin,” says Dubb. “But I’m 6 months postpartum and lately, I wake up in a pool of sweat, so typically I’ll wash my face with a gentle wash even though I always go to bed with clean skin. I like a balm wash and am currently using this one from Farmacy. I’ll use it again at night if I’m trying to get makeup or sunscreen off.”
This cleansing balm is made with sunflower and ginger root oils, plus turmeric and moringa extract to melt away dirt, debris, and makeup, and also contains papaya enzymes for an added dose of exfoliation. It’s gentle enough to be used on all skin types, and even the most heavy-duty mascara doesn’t stand a chance against it.
“We call this an essence meets a toner… it’s a watery product, but it’s really hydrating and nourishing, and ours is really antioxidant-rich,” says Dubb. “I think of it as a glass of water for your face. You know how they tell you to drink a glass of water every morning when you wake up? That’s what The Elixir is for your skin.”
Don’t just take Dubb’s word for it, though. “Since incorporating the Elixir into my multi-step routine—after cleansing, before serum—I’ve been thrilled by how refreshing, and not drying at all, it is,” writes W+G contributor Megan McCarty. “My face feels hydrated and glow-y, no easy feat considering it’s been a long winter.”
During the day, Dubb adds even more hydration into her routine with Isla’s Storm Serum. “It’s a multipurpose serum… and it has hyaluronic acid, glycerin and some more nice ingredients for hydration as well as ingredients that attack redness throughout the day,” she says. She’ll often follow this up with a vitamin C serum for additional antioxidant protection and a prescription-grade rosacea cream to combat flare-ups.
“Multipurpose hybrid products are my biggest passion—I love a skin-care product that has makeup benefits,” says Dubb. “One of our launch products is this moisturizing primer… I’ve been using it for two and a half years, and I love it. It feels good, and you can put makeup on over it but it really gives you enough moisture to get through the day.”
Makeup artists love this stuff too: It hydrates, protects against blue-light damage, and smooths fine lines and wrinkles. It’s so good for your complexion, you’ll want to wear it even on days you aren’t applying foundation.
Dubbs’ favorite exfoliating treatment happens to be our favorite exfoliating treatment, too. “I use the two-step peel pads from Dr. Dennis Gross—I think they’re really great,” she says. The formula combines alpha and beta hydroxy acids into a two-step routine, effectively resurfacing skin without irritation.
“I use our Whipped Dream, which is our heavier moisturizer at night, and sometimes if I’m super dry I’ll use a facial oil,” says Dubb. With ingredients like murumuru butter, ceramides, and niacinamide, the Whipped Dream formula packs a heavy punch of barrier-strengthening hydration, but its texture is so lightweight that all skin types can reap its benefits.
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